Sunday, November 29, 2015

From Caterpillar to Butterfly - Musings on Paschimottasana, Caterpillar Pose and the book, The Unfolding Self

Part of my final project for my Art 4 All People training is to do some writings from Ralph Metzner's book, The Unfolding Self.

The introduction from this book is called: From Caterpillar to Butterfly.  This reminds me of the work I am trying to do in my Yin Yoga Class on Saturdays at The Yogi Tree.  I believe if we can meditate on the qualities and energies of the animals in the yoga poses we can use their energies and archetypes to transform our own lives.

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." 
Richad Buckminister Fuller

Caterpillar Pose in Yin is what is called Pachimottanasana  in Hatha Yoga. Bernie Clark says the difference between Caterpillar and Paschimottanasana, is that in Caterpillar we are not trying to lengthen the spine or stretch the back muscles. Instead of bringing the head to the feet, round the spine so the head comes to the knees.

Bernie Clark in Caterpillar Pose

BKS Iyengar in Paschimottasana

According to Satyananda "this asana stretches the hamstring muscles and increases flexibility in the hip joints  It tones and massages the entire abdominal and pelvic region, including the liver, pancreas, spleen, uro-genital system, kidneys and adrenal glands.  It helps to remove excess weight in this are and stimualtes circulation to the nerves and muscles of the spine.

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly." 
Buckminster Fuller

In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar writes that the pose is also called Ugrasana or Brahmnacharyasana
"Paschima literally means the west.  It implies the whole body from the head to the heals.  The anterior or eastern aspect is the from of the body from face down to the toes.  The crown of the head is the upper or northern aspect while the soles and heels of the feet for, the lower or southern aspect of the body.  In this asana the bacck of the whole body is intensely stretched, hence the name..... Ugra means formidable, powerful and noble. Brahmacharya means religious study self-restraint and celibacy.

Bikram Choudury claims that this pose relieves chronic diarrhea by improving the circulation to the liver and spleen and improves digestion. He also says it increases the flexibility of the trapezius, deltoid, erectus femoris and bicep muscles, scaiti nerves, tendons, hip joints and the last 5 vertebrae of the spine.

What I teach about caterpillar pose is that the caterpillar is symbolic of preparing for the upcoming journey. Packing your suitcase.  Getting Prepared.  Putting everything in order before you go on your adventure.

"The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets the publicity." - George Carlin

In the Unfolding Self p. 17 Metzner writes "There exists in human experience another kind of transformation, a radical restructuring of the entire psyche that has been variously referred to as a mystical experience, ecstasy, cosmic, consciousness, oceanic feeling, oneness, transcendence, union with God, nirvana, satori, liberation, peak experience, and by other names."  This radical restructuring for me the change of the caterpillar into the butterfly.

Evolution biologist Elisabeth Sahtouris tells the story:

“Inside a cocoon, deep in the caterpillar’s body, tiny things biologists call ‘imaginal disks’ begin to form. Not recognizing the newcomers, the caterpillar’s immune system snuffs them. But they keep coming faster and faster, then begin to link up with each other. Eventually the caterpillar’s immune system fails from the stress and the disks become imaginal cells that build the butterfly from the meltdown of the caterpillar’s body. . . If we see ourselves as imaginal discs working to build the butterfly of a better world, we will also see how important it is to link with each other in the effort, to recognize how many different kinds of imaginal cells it will take to build a butterfly with all its capabilities and colors.”

The caterpillar archetype means pure potential, the promise of new life  that dwells  with our own bodies. The caterpillar reminds us that at some point, all the ruminating, processing and soul-searching will unfold into remarkable results. "Caterpillars are a blessing on new ideas. They indicate promising outcomes to projects in their initial stage, and offer good juju in terms of fruitful completion of goals.the caterpillar is a symbol of evolution and transformation too. Specifically, they convey a unique level of patience as they surrender to the process of transformation. Let's face it, once a caterpillar begins the process of transforming into a winged beauty...there's no turning back. In essence, caterpillar is a symbol of never looking back on the old versions of ourselves. Rather, the caterpillar encourages plowing forward with ever-evolving, more brilliant versions of our beauty and potential. "

When we change from caterpillar to butterfly Unfolding Self p, 19 "this kind of experience changes the way we feel about the world-our emotional attitude of basic trust or mistrust, faith or doubt, acceptance or rejection-and the way we feel about ourselves, our self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-love."

The caterpillar self-actualizes "brings into actuality of something that has been a latent potentiality".  But it also loses its caterpillar self.  The caterpillar is earthbound but the butterfly flies. Just as the shamanic healer undergoes a symbolic flight the butterfly has literally flight. Metzner writes that mystics "are butterflies who try to awaken the human larval caterpillars to the "immortal heritage" that awaits them."  The caterpillar is reborn as the butterfly.  Metzner writes p. 29 "There is always an ending, then a neutral, or intermeditate, zone, then a new beginning. "

The term metamorphosis is often used for the caterpillar's change into a butterfly.  It gives us the hope as humans we can change just as significantly as the change from a caterpillar to a butterfly.

When we think about doing caterpillar pose and it is actually a very difficult pose for me.  We can identify with the caterpillar that does not know what it is going to become but is living in the present moment of its life as a caterpillar.  Doing caterpillar things.  Be one with caterpillar when you are in caterpillar pose and be one with the butterfly when you are in butterfly pose.  Both are necessary stages with equal benefits and important experiences.

The last word in this blog post and in the introductory chapter of the Unfolding Self goes to Chuang Tsu.

"When one is changing, how does one know that a change is taking place?  When one is not changing, how does one know that a change hasn't occurred? Maybe you and I are still in a dream and have not yet awakened . .. Be content with what is happening and forget about change; then you can enter into the oneness of the mystery of heaven."

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